Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Friday, January 13, 2006

I Feel Violated

I would like to write a letter to Royal Caribbean. I have this thing about writing letters to organizations because I feel that my effort will be wasted. (Isn’t that funny? Unlike this blog, which I know draws in millions of readers by the hour . . . so my efforts are never wasted.)

My mom took me on my first cruise last week. I was terrified. Of course, one week before we were supposed to leave, I watched this stupid (damn you, television!) show on A&E called "Terror on the High Seas: Cruise Ships and Weird Dangerous Things That Will Happen to You When You Least Expect Them You Stupid Unsuspecting American with all the Disposable Income to Spend on Your Vacation of HORROR and Trust Us, You’ll Wish You Were Dead!” I subsequently became obsessed with George Smith the IV (you’ll notice that my obsession with things I previously knew nothing about is a recurring theme in my life), and all the things that had ever happened on any cruise ship. Sort of the Unsolved Mysteries of the high seas, if you will. One particular man who was interviewed talked about how the average cruise ship staff is “Woefully unprepared for a Cholera epidemic.” Now as someone who is supposed to be pursuing a PhD in a field that is distantly related to Public Health, I was very distraught by this, because personally, I thought we had eradicated that pesky Cholera here in the U.S. Although our ship was flying the flag of the Bahamas, so maybe that’s the problem – Cholera knows who to mess with and who to stay away from.

Of all the things I was worried about – Cholera outbreak, abduction and murder, falling overboard, food poisoning, petty theft, wedgies at the pool, I did NOT worry about the one thing that did happen – sea sickness. I do not expect Royal Caribbean to apologize for this. But I felt I must mention it because it did get third billing (me, then my mom, then sea sickness) as special guest star.

What really bothered me about Royal Caribbean was my post-spa experience, um, encounter? I am a girly-girl. You’d never know since I rarely wear makeup (too lazy, plus I always poke myself in the eye with eyeliner) and if you saw the current state of my roots you’d think I was the opposite of “girly-girl” but I DO love the pampering crap. Love it. Bring me my Mimosa while I lounge in the giant comfy chair and soak my feet in mystical soothing bath-salt-oil things. Play Enya’s latest CD and kvetch with me about the outrage that is Angelina and Brad (heartless bastards, the lot of them, if you ask me.) Let me spend 20 minutes pondering the wonder that is the new OPI collection for spring. Pretend you’ve NEVER heard me ask, “How do I GET the job of naming these nail polish colors?” Light the aromatherapy candle and then ask me if I need another Mimosa. You get the picture.

So, the idea of getting somewhere AND getting my nails done at the same time? Pure unadulterated freaking genius. Is there a better idea anywhere in the world? Since we have yet to discover a cure for cancer or an AIDS vaccine, I say no! There is no better idea anywhere. As soon as I got on the ship I made a beeline for the Ship-Shape Day Spa & Bowel of Hell (that last part I made up.) I sign up for the de rigueur manni and pedi, of course (that’s manicure and pedicure for my male non-metrosexual readers). And, oh holy sweet joy all that is good in the universe, the hot rocks massage. I’ve never had the hot rocks massage, but in the pictures it sure looks nifty, and why the hell not? Who DOESN’T want to get the hot rocks massage and bounce across the Caribbean at the same time? The hot rocks massage was outrageously expensive, but I don’t exactly have a good yardstick here. What if you went up to the average person and asked, “Excuse me, but how much would you charge me to heat up some rocks and rub them all over me for an hour and fifteen minutes?” I’d do it for a million dollars and not a penny less. So really, I got quite the bargain.

Okay, so massage was so-so. The pictures did not live up to their promise. But I’m okay with that. That’s why it’s called advertising. To blatantly borrow from Jerry Seinfeld, I don’t really expect people to appear in my living room, jumping around, playing volleyball, shouting with joy, “We have soda, we have soda!” every time I open up a Diet Pepsi.

Here’s the creepy part: AFTER the hot rocks massage. After any massage, I think (basing this on nothing but my own experience) the masseuse should say, “Would you like a cold glass of water?” and then that is it. Scram. Get the hell out of there. Leave me the f___ alone. I feel like a noodle, I have natural botanical oils in my hair, my new zits are making their debut appearance. I just want to leave and go back to the privacy of my own bathroom where the only person who has to look at my scary, red, oily, recently massaged into a state of fury face is ME. Get it? But no. My masseuse, named Svetlana from the old country, comes back in the room with a cold glass of water. Nice touch. Now give me my water and LEAVE Svetlana. No. She then does that tricky thing they do with the tables in the gynecologists’ offices where she props me up. Isn’t that great? I’m holding onto a cold glass of water with one hand, clutching my towel (and NOT 400 thread count towel either, I’ll tell you that) with the other hand, sitting on this faux exam table (all that’s missing is the stirrups!) trying not to flash this woman. AND she turns off my lovely Enya music and turns on the overhead fluorescent lights.

It is at this moment that the past 75 minutes of relaxation (and all the money I paid for those minutes) almost audibly falls into the ocean with a loud thunking crash. Why? Because I feel very, very much like I am in the gynecologist’s office. Svetlana says she has some “recommendations” for me. I imagine that this is how many of my undergraduate students must feel right before they are told they have genital warts. Somehow, I think that the students get the “you-have-warts” message delivered in a more dignified setting than the one I was in. I am getting a SALES pitch. Svetlana is trying to sell me some crap to help with my poor, fatigued muscles. She THEN instructs me to put out my hand (which one? Do I spill ice cold water all over myself or just drop the towel and figure Svetlana’s seen it all before?) so I can try the “recommendation.” At no time does she use the word product. The manicurist/pedicurist tried to sell me some “herbal supplements” – right – my doctor asks me what I’m taking and I tell him I’m taking some herbal supplements I bought from the manicurist on Grandeur of the Seas – so I know it’s probably built into their training manual: Step 7.) When the client is completely disoriented and slightly seasick, dazzle them with our crap. Vitamins, lotion – it doesn’t really matter. They don’t know what the hell is going on anyway.

But I digress. Somehow (I’ve blocked it out – I don’t remember the exact details), I manage to slather the “recommendation” on my shoulder blade (do not try this at home or in front of small children.) Then, Svetlana sits there expectantly. She stares at me. I think she’s waiting for my assessment of the recommendation, but all I really want to do is say, “Um, can you please leave so I can get dressed now?” After the long silent stare-off, Svetlana asks me what I think of her recommendation. Can we stop with that already? Let’s call a spade a spade. You’re peddling some cheap crap. That simple. Even the OB/GYNS, who aren’t trained in sales and marketing know more about this than the Royal Caribbean minions of Satan (men, no doubt), who think a disoriented middle-aged woman with ridges in her nails is a good “lead.” Do gynecologists leave you propped up in their little recliner, wearing that paper dress, hand you their bill, stare at you for 3 minutes and then say, “Well, what do you think? Did I overcharge you or are you um, interested in paying that?” CLEARLY a man came up with that technique. Isn’t the point of a cruise to relax? No woman (again, I’ve not done any empirical research – just basing this on my unofficial survey – okay – one phone call) associates going to the gynecologist’s office with relaxation or a spa treatment. On her 40th birthday a woman does not gather her 10 closest friends for champagne, a limo ride and Pap smears for everyone! Yet, somehow, Svetlana (and I blame the training, not her) managed to transform a hot rocks massage on a cruise ship into an experience eerily similar to a visit to the OB/GYN. Does Royal Caribbean hope to recreate this experience for women? Maybe that could be their next marketing campaign.



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